My "letter to the editor"
Thanks much for your editorial about the Brennan
report, the latest in a string of exposes on the
unreliability of electronic voting machines.
("Hacking the Vote," July 11, 2006, Section 1,
It was especially heartening to read your
conclusion, that "Voters should have the
old-fashioned reliablity of paper to verify that
when they vote, it counts."
For years, election officials nationwide have been
lured by the the siren call of the voting-machine
dream merchants: "Your elections will be simpler,
faster, and--most important--more reliable."
Despite continued warnings from election-reform
activists, Cook County and Chicago officials fell
for that pitch.
The result was the shipwreck of our 2006 primary.
That disaster did splash some cold water on our
officials. They did stir and grumble. But they
weren't shaken out of their dream. Like Homer
Simpson, they're ready to stick our finger in the
socket yet again.
Yes, the City and County do offer a bandage for
voting-machines ailments: a paper record of each
voter's choices, one that the voter has a chance
to verify first-hand.
Those paper records are designed to reveal the
correct tally when a machine is suspected of
giving an incorrect one.
But wait a minute. Doesn't that imply that the
voter-verified paper record is more reliable than
If so, why did we waste more than $50 million on
systems that are less reliable than paper?
And that's just the purchase price. In the next
few years, we'll be locked into investing millions
more for maintenance, upgrades, storage, and
For a mere fraction of that cost, we could have
established a simple, non-electronic, purely paper
ballot system, and we could have remedied all its
inaccessibilty, lengthy ballots, complex ballot
types, recruitment and training of pollworkers,
We seem to have lost sight of the goal.
Job one for election officials isn't to speed up
the tallying, or to deploy high-tech window
dressing, or to ease the workload of election
Job one for election officials is to make sure
elections are honest.
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